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83% of Customers Will Choose Sustainability This Holiday Season — Does Your Brand Deliver?

Two consumers with an eco-friendly holiday gift: sustainable ecommerce.
Give your customers real-world examples of how your brand treats the planet — and show them how they can be part of it. [Malte Müeller / Getty Images]

From more mindful packaging to greener delivery options, here are ways to make a lasting impact.

Consumers are getting serious about values-driven shopping. A whopping 78% of them say a company’s environmental practices influence their spending decisions. And for holiday shopping, the number is even higher: 83% of consumers say they’ll seek out sustainable products and shipping options. 

For the sake of your customers —  and the planet — it’s critical to make sustainable ecommerce a priority. From more mindful packaging to greener delivery options, here are a few practical ways to make a real and lasting impact. 

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Optimize shipping and fulfillment for a greener holiday season

As soon as a customer clicks the Buy button, the countdown to delivery begins. On any given day, shoppers expect zippy fulfillment, but during the holidays, fast delivery is even more important. How do brands balance lightning-fast fulfillment with sustainability? You can get the best of both worlds with optimized routing, environmentally friendly workflows, and integrated data that helps you track your carbon footprint. 

With the right inventory management tools, you can ensure delivery from the closest fulfillment center. This reduces your carbon footprint by shortening delivery routes and cutting emissions from last-mile workflows. With store associate apps, you can turn your brick-and-mortar locations into fulfillment centers and allow employees to complete curbside pick-up orders. This offers customers convenience and eliminates the need for last-mile delivery. Bonus points if you encourage customers to choose sustainable fulfillment options with incentives like loyalty rewards or discounts. For example, you can offer a percentage off a customer’s next purchase if they choose a more sustainable “slow delivery.”

Take a closer look at your supply chain

Order management is just one part of the supply chain. You can also home in on your suppliers’ environmental impact, and compare it to your sustainability goals. Do your partners make environmentally sound decisions? The answers to this question can help minimize waste in the supply chain. 

To involve suppliers in your sustainable ecommerce efforts — and make sure you’re all on the same page — communicate your expectations through a supplier code of conduct. After they agree to the terms, consider performing audits to gauge performance. 

You can also build your own digital marketplace to localize supply networks and reduce emissions. This is becoming a popular model as businesses seek ways to combat supply chain issues and meet consumer demands for greener business practices. In fact, more than one-third of commerce professionals are prioritizing adding marketplace features to their existing ecommerce site. A digital marketplace immediately expands your network of sellers and increases the likelihood of delivery from nearby suppliers.  

Make sustainable ecommerce part of your customer experience 

Sustainability efforts should start with your business processes, but that’s not where they have to end. Your customers want to play an active role, too. Give them the opportunities they’re looking for by implementing convenient, engaging experiences throughout the journey. 

This can range from circular fashion initiatives, furniture buyback programs, beauty bottle recycling campaigns, and more. While encouraging customers to participate in your brand’s sustainability efforts, this also helps build loyalty and shows that you understand your customers’ values. For example, Madewell Forever is the brand’s effort to keep textiles out of landfills. Through the program and a partnership with ThredUp, customers can turn in used clothing to any store location, or shop vintage and preloved apparel online.  

Selling previously owned items through online marketplaces to buyers who reuse, recycle, or resell them is known as recommerce. The recommerce market grew twice as fast as the wider retail market in 2021, and is expected to reach $178 billion this year. With this in mind, adding a recommerce marketplace to your digital storefront can be a winning holiday strategy, especially as consumers embrace these options as a way to combat the rising costs of new goods.

Prioritize transparency and a data-first approach

As new legislation passes and customer expectations around sustainability continue to grow, brands will need evidence of their progress rather than vague or unfulfilled promises. To avoid greenwashing, stay transparent about your efforts, and connect them to data and success metrics. One way to do this? Furniture and design brand MillerKnoll prioritizes eco-friendly materials throughout its product portfolio. The company even uses an environmental calculator that lets customers see the materials breakdown of every product. 

Use data to go green

Learn how furniture company MillerKnoll uses sustainability data to affect everything from products to the planet.

You can also use carbon accounting to calculate the progress you’ve made on your sustainability journey for internal and external stakeholders. The right tools can help you track initiatives across your organization so you can celebrate success and course-correct quickly if you get off track. 

The best place to start? Communicate your efforts 

Many businesses already practice sustainable ecommerce. For example, 81 of the Digital Commerce 360 top 100 online global retailers publicly report sustainability initiatives. However, only 23% of them will promote sustainable practices this holiday season, based on our analysis. That’s a huge missed opportunity, especially since shoppers may pass on your products if they don’t find explicitly stated sustainable options. So, how do you promote your initiatives to like-minded customers? 

Consider messaging at every stage of the journey: on your homepage, within product descriptions and detail pages, and even in shipping options. Take these moments as opportunities to paint a picture for your customers that gives them real-world examples of how your brand treats the planet — and how they can be part of it. 

What other values will drive consumer behaviors this holiday season?

See data from over 1 billion global shoppers.

Lauren Wallace of Salesforce
Lauren Wallace Editorial Lead, Commerce Cloud

Lauren Wallace is an editorial lead for Commerce Cloud. She’s written for B2C and B2B companies in many different industries — most recently cybersecurity and healthcare. When she’s not writing about commerce, you can typically find her outside running or biking around San Diego.

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